Virgin Australia business class upgrade guide

Virgin Australia business class upgrade guide

If you normally travel in premium economy or are stuck buying Virgin Australia's economy Freedom fares, business class upgrades are one of the best ways to use your Velocity Frequent Flyer points.

Upgrades are available on all Virgin Australia domestic and international flights with business class, with some fares requiring more points to upgrade, and others less points: typically the case when booking a higher-priced ticket.

When it comes to business class upgrades, there are seven types of economy and premium economy fares you should be familiar with:

  • Go fares are the lowest-cost economy option on trans-Tasman and other short international flights, and can't be upgraded using points.
  • Go Plus is the next step up on those same routes, and can be upgraded using points.
  • Getaway economy fares are sold across the Virgin Australia network and can be upgraded on domestic and shorter international flights (including trans-Tasman), but can't be upgraded on flights to/from Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi.
  • Elevate economy fares appear only on Virgin Australia domestic flights – where upgrades are possible – and on Virgin Australia's LA and Abu Dhabi flights, on which these fares can't be upgraded using points.
  • Freedom fares are the new 'economy Flexi', sold on all Virgin Australia domestic and international flights, with upgrades possible on all routes (including Abu Dhabi and LA).
  • Premium Saver premium economy tickets can be bought on those longer Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles flights, and can be upgraded to business class using points.
  • Premium tickets are essentially flexible premium economy, and like their lower-cost counterparts, can also be upgraded to business class where sold.

For example, a business class upgrade from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Perth will cost you 9,900 Velocity points on a Freedom fare, but 30,000 points on an Elevate or Getaway ticket.

Taking a longer trip to Los Angeles or Abu Dhabi? You’ll be up for 45,000 Velocity points from an economy Freedom fare or base-level Premium Saver premium economy ticket, or just 25,000 points if you’re on a flexible 'Premium' premium economy ticket.

However, points-based upgrades aren’t available when travelling on any of Virgin’s partner airlines – including Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Air New Zealandeven if you're booked on a codeshare service with a Virgin Australia (VA) flight number.

But in its favour, Virgin Australia offers confirmed upgrades as soon as you've requested them, provided there are upgrades available on your flight: rather than waiting until closer to departure as happens on Qantas international flights.

Here's what you need to know to turn those spare Virgin Australia Velocity points into a business class seat on your next domestic or international trip with Virgin Australia.

Domestic business class upgrades from Virgin Australia Getaway, Elevate fares

If you're travelling on a domestic Getaway or Elevate fare, upgrades with Velocity points can be requested from the time of booking up until two hours before departure via the Virgin Australia website, or until three hours prior to departure over the phone (13 18 75).

If an upgrade isn't available when you request it, you may be able to add your request to a waitlist for consideration closer to departure.

Upgrade requests can also be made in Virgin Australia's lounges between two hours and 40 minutes before departure for Gold, Silver and Red guests who already have lounge access, and at any time on the day of travel until 40 minutes before departure for Velocity Platinum members, including from other airports (such as to upgrade your return flight before taking your outbound leg).

When departing from Hobart where Virgin Australia doesn't operate a lounge, Velocity Gold and Platinum members can instead request a points-based upgrade at the priority check-in desks between 1.5 hours and 40 minutes prior to departure.

All things considered, Virgin Australia's domestic upgrade policy particularly generous, as in addition to scoring upgrades for yourself, you can also use your points to bump-up colleagues, friends and family members, whether they're travelling with you or in their lonesome.

On shorter flights like Sydney-Melbourne or Sydney-Brisbane, the asking price is 10,000 points per passenger, per flight on both Getaway and Elevate fares: equal to the number of points needed for a similar upgrade on Qantas.

Business class on Virgin Australia's Boeing 737s

That’s not bad value when you consider the typically-low cost of many Getaway fares, plus the benefit of lounge access if you’re not already a Velocity Gold or Platinum member.

But on those longer treks across to Perth, the number of points needed for an upgrade to business class is comparable to simply booking a confirmed business class seat at the onset – 30,000 points to upgrades versus 35,500 points to book outright, as we’ve previously detailed.

Domestic business class upgrades from Virgin Australia Freedom fares

Reflecting the higher price of Virgin Australia's domestic Freedom fares compared to their Elevate and Getaway counterparts, the number of points needed to upgrade from these is significantly less.

Book a Freedom fare and you could be sitting in business class on the airline’s short hops for just 4,900 points on routes like Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane and Sydney-Canberra.

Like Elevate and Getaway fares, confirmed upgrades can be requested online and over the phone, plus at the airport for frequent flyers and paid-up Virgin Australia Lounge members under the same time frames as above.

Using Virgin Australia Platinum upgrade certificates

Velocity Platinum members receive four complimentary upgrade certificates each year which can turn a Freedom fare into a business class seat at no charge.

They’re valid anywhere on the Virgin Australia domestic and 'short-haul international' network, and are put to best use on those longer flights between Perth and the east coast: especially those served by Airbus A330s.

Not only will you get the most airtime for your free upgrade, but you'll also find the airline's latest 'The Business' seats on those A330 aircraft, with international-grade fully-flat beds and direct aisle access from every seat.

Review: Virgin Australia 'The Business': A330 business class seats

Internationally, you could upgrade to destinations like New Zealand, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Indonesia (Bali), but not on longer routes such as to Los Angeles or Abu Dhabi.

International business class upgrades on shorter Virgin Australia flights

Heading to New Zealand, Fiji or any of Virgin Australia’s other destinations closer to home?

You can use your points to upgrade to business class if you’ve purchased a Freedom, Getaway or Go Plus economy fare, although not if you’re travelling on the lowest-cost Go tickets.

As Virgin Australia doesn’t have any international lounges of its own – instead using those of airline partners such as Etihad and Singapore Airlines – international upgrades should instead be requested online or over the phone, from any time after booking until two hours prior to departure.

Like domestic flights, Velocity points can be used to upgrade anyone on short international flights, whether you're travelling together or not, while upgrades can be waitlisted if one isn't immediately available.

Between Sydney and Auckland, you’re looking at 9,900 points for a stint in business class from a Freedom fare or 16,000 points from both Getaway and Go Plus tickets.

Sydney-Nadi (Fiji) flights also fall in the same distance band and require the same number of points to upgrade, while more lengthy routes like Sydney-Denpasar (Bali) command 14,900 points to upgrade from a Freedom fare or 24,000 points from Getaway and Go Plus bookings.

International business class upgrades to Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi

While Velocity members at all status levels can move up to business class on domestic and short international flights, upgrades to 'The Business' on flights to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi are solely the domain of the Gold and Platinum frequent flyer.

But unlike Qantas which doesn’t process any international upgrades until closer to departure, Gold and Platinum flyers enjoy confirmed upgrades on all flights where available, but can again waitlist if an upgrade isn't immediately possible.

These top-tier members can also upgrade other travellers to The Business on Abu Dhabi or Los Angeles flights, but only when travelling together.

(If a family member holds their own Velocity Gold or Platinum card but the points are in your account, you could always transfer your points across and have them request their own upgrade.)

Upgrade to 'The Business' to the USA, UAE from just 25,000 Velocity points...

AusBT review: Virgin Australia 'The Business', Sydney-Los Angeles

Wherever you're headed, also keep in mind that not all business class seats can be snapped up with points – Virgin Australia intentionally keeps a number of these available to fare-paying passengers, while long-haul international upgrades can also only be processed over the phone, not online.

How many points you'll need varies based on your fare type, but on most upgradeable tickets (Freedom and Premium Saver), you’ll be up for 45,000 Velocity points in each direction to both Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi.

Passengers on the most expensive 'Premium' premium economy tickets require only 25,000 points, however.

Australian Business Traveller also understands that Virgin Australia is considering a lower upgrade rate for its upcoming Perth-Abu Dhabi flights, being several hours shorter in flying time than its current Australia-Los Angeles and Sydney-Abu Dhabi routes.

Bidding for a Virgin Australia upgrade

Don’t have enough points or upgrade certificates to relax at the pointy end? There’s one last hope – UpgradeMe Premium Bid.

Travellers can bid for a better seat in the next-best cabin – domestically, that’s business class, and internationally, that's either premium economy or business, depending on the route.

As a bonus, upgrade bids are accepted from all paid travellers on flights to Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles – unlike points upgrades to these destinations which are restricted to Gold and Platinum members.

On these longer flights, you’ll need to be sitting in premium economy for a chance at business class, as economy passengers can only bid for premium economy.

To see what an upgrade could cost on your next booking, visit the UpgradeMe Premium Bid page on the Velocity website. Here, you can enter how much you’d be willing to pay for a business class seat and lock that figure in – along with your credit card details – up to 26 hours before the flight departs.

By 24 hours before wheels-up, the airline will assess your bid and choose to either accept or decline your offer.

If your offer has been approved, your credit card will be automatically charged with your bid amount – and if not, or if your card payment is declined, you’ll keep your original seat at no further charge.

Our final tips…

The number of points and status credits you’ll earn on upgraded flights will be as per your original purchased fare, so if you’ve shuffled from economy to business class, your frequent flyer bounty would be as though you actually flew in economy.

Whether by points, certificates or Premium Bid, upgrades aren’t available on flights which were originally booked using frequent flyer points – so if you've already forked over Velocity points to secure your seat, make sure you're happy with the cabin you've selected.

The only exceptions to this rule are Velocity Any Seat bookings, where travellers can upgrade using points or Premium Bid as if they were travelling on a regular (paid) fare.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin (ChrisCh)

[email protected] / @ChamberlinChris

Australian Business Traveller journalist Chris Chamberlin lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

13 Comments

  • eight10man

    eight10man

    8 May, 2015 11:28 am

    Finally flew coast-to-coast on a Flexi BNE-PER trek. I upgraded using 9,900 points to Business class, and couldn't have had a more enjoyable trans-continental journey!

    But one important thing to note though: by upgrading online to Business class you apparently loose most of the flexibility of your more expensive Flexi-fare.

    Two days in advance I purchased my Flexi fare ticket and immediately found Business Upgrade space, so purchased the upgrade as well. The day before travel I wanted to move the flight forward to an earlier outbound, but was told to pay $35 and forfeit my 9,900 points if I wanted to do that..

    Something to consider if opting for the flexibility of a Flexi fare...!

    No member give thanks

  • delly

    delly

    14 Jun, 2016 03:22 pm

    I am almost VA Platinum, I was under the impression the upgrade certificates meant 4 sector upgrades and not 4 actual flight upgrades, therefore east to west meant giving up 2 certificates for a single flight because it is a longer 2 sector flight.

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    14 Jun, 2016 03:55 pm

    One Platinum upgrade = one take-off and landing.

    Sydney to Perth non-stop is one flight so requires one upgrade.

    Sydney to Melbourne is also a non-stop flight and requires one upgrade.

    If you fly Sydney to Melbourne and then Melbourne to Perth, you'll need two upgrades. The length of the domestic/short-haul international flight doesn't matter.

    No member give thanks

  • delly

    delly

    14 Jun, 2016 06:51 pm

    Thanks Chris.

    No member give thanks

  • traveller1

    traveller1

    14 Jun, 2016 03:38 pm

    Is it generally cheaper to buy an economy ticket with cash and upgrade using points compared to redeeming out right with points on international long haul flights?

    No member give thanks

  • Tracie

    Tracie

    15 Jun, 2016 05:11 am

    Have been lucky enough as a Platinum member to obtain one of the waitlist upgrades from LAX-BNE. Was able to phone up immediately after it was awarded for seat selection. Nice to know a few days before flying - just makes the lead up to check in and flying home less stressful. 

    No member give thanks

  • Greg Hooper

    Tripper1

    15 Jun, 2016 02:34 pm

    I read this with dismay. I wish to travel business class to the UK for a holiday and I have been accumulating Velocity points. However, from this article, it seems I cannot use them for a business class upgrade as Virgin only fly internationally to Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles, and the Velocity points are not accepted for upgrades on partner airlines that do fly to the UK. What are my options, if any, to get to the UK using Velocity points? Thanks.

    No member give thanks

  • Jorge_fly

    Jorge_fly

    15 Jun, 2016 02:39 pm

    You can:

    -Book with points in business class

    -Convert to Singapore Airlines and upgrade to business class with Singapore Airlines

    - Upgrade the longest European leg which is Sydney-Abu Dhabi

    No member give thanks

  • Greg Hooper

    Tripper1

    15 Jun, 2016 03:22 pm

    Thanks for your quick reply, Jorge. I'll consider all those options. Probably means that I will need more points either for an outright booking or to make up for the loss in converting to SIA. Upon reflection, the QANTAS FF program may be the best option for people seeking a variety of options for international travel. Having usually flown domestic, the Virgin program was previously best for me. Thanks for the assistance. Much appreciated.

    No member give thanks

  • Ethan Kimahn

    imxpnsv

    15 Jun, 2016 03:25 pm

    My old company only paid for Saver fares. So I waited until the last minute when the fare goes higher and close enough to the flexi fare. When company paid for the saver fare then I call the VA call centre to check the availabilty of Platinum upgrade. If so, I pay the difference to upgrade mine to Flexi fare and then request upgrade to a Business seat. Naughty of me.

    No member give thanks

  • Jorge_fly

    Jorge_fly

    15 Jun, 2016 03:40 pm

    Naughty but great!

    No member give thanks

  • romaau

    romaau

    15 Jun, 2016 11:14 pm

    Out of interest what was the tyical upgrade fee from Saver to Flexi

    No member give thanks

  • eelsushi88

    eelsushi88

    15 Jun, 2016 06:10 pm

    Great article! Just in time when I'm about to find out more about this. Just to confirm, if I want to upgrade SYD-LAX from economy to business using points, do I need to get Flexi Fare ticket? And to request for an upgrade, is it available through phone only? Thanks

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    16 Jun, 2016 05:26 pm

    Hi there, to confirm, points upgrades on the Sydney-LA route can only be requested by Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers and only from economy Flexi fares or premium economy tickets paid for with money, rather than booked with points. You'll need to call to request your upgrade.

    No member give thanks

  • Peter Alba

    Peter Alba

    16 Jun, 2016 04:34 pm

    Great article. We have no Velocity points as am just a keen tourist to Oz every few years. So used the cash bid route to try and upgrade for Bali to Sydney a few weeks ago. No luck as small business class full but our next sector from Syd to Per saw success. Worth a go if you like a bargain given how much better the comfort and service is and really great when you get that email saying you have the upgrade!

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    16 Jun, 2016 05:27 pm

    Great to hear the upgrade bid worked on one of your flights, Peter! Did you manage to fly in 'The Business' on the A330s or were you on one of the Boeing 737s?

    Member who gave thanks

    csm

  • Peter Alba

    Peter Alba

    16 Jun, 2016 05:37 pm

    It was The Business, Chris and lived up to its name! By my non -expert rough guess my wife and I got two upgraded seats for just over the price of one on what was a quiet maybe 30% full business class. Trouble is you can get used to that comfort!

    No member give thanks

  • Jono

    Jono

    5 Jan, 2017 02:59 pm

    Nice article. Do you know if VA's move from Saver Lite, Saver and Flexi to the new cutesy names like Getaway or Freedom etc. have any impact on uprgades?
    No member give thanks

  • motef

    motef

    16 Jan, 2017 08:47 am

    I would also be interested to know the relationship to the new Dom fates of Getaway, Elevate etc
    No member give thanks

  • csm

    csm

    10 Mar, 2017 02:05 pm

    Is Virgin Business Class Upgrade seat availability on long haul international routes come from the same pool as reward seats?
    If there is no reward seat availability, what are your chances of scoring one of these upgrades?  
    No member give thanks

  • Luke Stanistreet

    Stanners275

    7 Jun, 2017 01:06 pm

    Having seen a couple of articles, and looking at VA's webiste, it looks like there's no longer any flights to Abu Dhabi on VA metal (and hence no option to upgrade on points) - only LAX and Hong Kong?

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    7 Jun, 2017 01:41 pm

    Stanners275: Correct - the article was correct at the time of publication, although since that date, Virgin Australia has ceased its Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights and axed plans to fly Perth-Abu Dhabi also, so on 'long-haul international flights', points can be used to upgrade on flights to Los Angeles, or on the new Melbourne-Hong Kong route which begins next month.
    No member give thanks

  • Luke Stanistreet

    Stanners275

    13 Jun, 2017 11:08 am

    Thanks @ChrisCh, I appreciate the prompt response.
    No member give thanks

  • john hauser

    talkscheap

    7 Jun, 2017 04:33 pm

    Hi Chris, is the bid process the only way to upgrade for cash on a flexible Virgin ticket, i thought there was a new system being introduced?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    7 Jun, 2017 04:56 pm

    Hi talkscheap, as above, this article was published in February based on what was correct at that time (we generally don't retrospectively update static articles as airlines make changes, otherwise that would be a full-time job in itself!). You'll find more information about Virgin Australia's new 'Buy Now' upgrades here, following their debut last month.
    No member give thanks

  • john hauser

    talkscheap

    7 Jun, 2017 05:01 pm

    Thanks so much, I appreciate you posting the link
    No member give thanks

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19 Dec, 2017 07:13 am

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